Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends
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Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  671 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Married to a convert herself, Anita Diamant provides advice and information that can transform the act of conversion into an extraordinary journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Here you will learn how to choose a rabbi, a synagogue, a denomination, a Hebrew name; how to handle the difficulty of putting aside Christmas; what happens at the mikvah (ritual bath) or a...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Schocken
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Michael Doyle
This book really lays out the details of becoming a Jew-By-Choice, from why others have made the decision, to what to expect from your rabbi and your learning experience during your months of study, to the actual rituals of conversion, post-conversion celebrations, and your first year as a new Jew. Written from a liberal (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) perspective, the book is written for both prospective converts through marriage and those considering Judaism for personal reasons. It...more
Paul
I am getting into a bad habit of reading others reviews before I write my own, which makes me want to react to other reviewers' comments. I will limit myself to this: the subtitle says it pretty well, "A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends." This is about conversion and the issues surrounding it. I think she does a nice job and I saw myself in here quite a bit. For those looking for more about Judaism, the history, the traditions, the beliefs, and the debat...more
Pauline
This was my first Jewish related book that I read. The reason why it interested me is because a friend of mine is Jewish. I tend to read up on what other people are, in order for me to better understand certain aspects (thus is why I have a couple of Mormon books in my already-read list).

I just so happen to come across this book on a bookshelf of another friend of mine. I think this book is a starting point in getting to "know" the makeup of Judaism. I definately ALWAYS thought of Jewish/Judaism...more
Jim
While I agree with the criticisms expressed here, that the book is overbroad in some areas and assumes too much in others --and that it is unapologetically non orthodox--no one is going to read this book in a vacuum. As part of my (for lack of a better phrase) "coming out" as a Jew by choice, this book was instrumental in relieving a great deal of anxiety about the process and really helped me decide to ultimately take the (in this case literal) plunge. After years of reading about Judaism in th...more
Erinn
Jan 09, 2008 Erinn rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone converting or who knows someone who is
Shelves: judaism
I read this book as part of my conversion process. It pretty much answered all my questions regarding the process of converting, the ambiguity surrounding 'who is Jewish?', converting children, dealing with friends and family, and being naked in the mikvah (which I was a little nervous about). I recommend this book to anyone who is converting or knows someone close who is converting, it is full of good information and useful tips about how to spend your life as a new Jew.
KaraAnne
This was one of the first books I read after meeting my (now) husband. Before getting too deep into a relationship with him, I wanted an idea of what it might be like should we decide to marry. It was very helpful for me, and helped me realize that choosing to be Jewish was something I wanted/needed regardless of the outcome of our relationship...the bonus is that three years later we were married!
Jillian
Good information for what to expect through the conversion process, but still leaves me wanting to know more. An btw, family and friends - I'm just learning, not making any decisions on anything :)
Jennifer
Indispensible for my conversion process...I still pick it up every now and again, it inspires me.
Max Maxwell
Jan 02, 2010 Max Maxwell rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Um... go after some other ones first, eh?
Recommended to Max by: No one, it was in the synagogue library
Not the greatest. It wasn't broad enough for absolute beginners, because it assumed a lot of knowledge regarding Judaism aside from conversion. And yet it wasn't specific enough for the serious potential convert, because it skimmed over the specific details of pretty much everything. So this book is useful to someone in a very small window of time. It was also a little too "Oprah's Book Club" for me. A great Zen master once said, "I sell all kinds of things in my shop. If someone comes looking f...more
Suzanna
While this was a little on the fluffy side, I did find it useful in a broad sense prior to and during my conversion process. It's also very positive in tone, which is soothing when you are going through the process of converting to Judaism. I was essentially raised without organized religion and after much soul-searching decided this was the path for me. People still have difficulty grasping that I am "really" Jewish and not "just converting to get married to someone Jewish" etc.
Because Judais...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Sep 07, 2008 ♥ Ibrahim ♥ rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: everybody!
The author is a real person and when you read her book you can't help but fall in love with her and her Judaism. She is distinguishably brilliant and has a charming good sense of humor. I have always needed a book like that to tell me where to start if I am contemplating the "choosing" of Judaism. I admire her boldness. I love people with conviction who stand up for something and indeed she beautifully stands up for her Jewish faith.

In the house of some Egyptian Jews, I told Joyce in excitement...more
Brian
I briefly glanced over some of the other reviews before I set down to write this one, and I now I feel a bit bad because I'm repeating a pretty common refrain, but nonetheless I'll continue: the book is simultaneously too specific and not specific enough.

What I mean is, while there are a few bits here and there dedicated to other cultures, the vast majority of Choosing a Jewish Life is quite obviously directed towards American Protestants. There's a lot of time spent on Christmas and one's emoti...more
Kitsuniku
Was a good book overall on the topic. Did focus a lot on those converting who were or are from a Christian background, and/or have a significant other who is a born-Jew. Very little for those who are approaching the idea of converting on their own. Though, it is understandable since it isn't common for a person to convert to a belief without the influence of someone else in their life.
Anita does give pointers as to seeking a Rabbi to work with in converting. As well as, information to look arou...more
Mark
I really enjoyed the first 1/3rd of this book. It talked about what goes through the mind of potential converts and featured some helpful testimonials from Jews-by-choice about what led them to Judaism. I also found it really interesting that the book regularly calls out the tenuous relationship between liberal Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Humanist) and actually believing in g-d. I particularly liked this: "Non-Jews tend to see the act of conversion as an expression of religious faith, even th...more
Chris
Disappointed by this one, especially because it is a topic I personally identify with. I've really liked Diamant's writing in other places, but this one fell short on offering me any real insight. Especially bummed by the fact that the author asks big questions (What do I do about Christmas? How do I explain the need for hatafat dam brit to a teenager?) but then flat up fails to answer them with more than a short anecdote. Read this one as a possible book to recommend in class I'm working on: wo...more
Simcha Wood
Choosing a Jewish Life is a fine resource for information on conversion to (non-Orthodox) Judaism. The book is part "What to Expect...", part discussion of the history of Jewish conversion and attitudes toward conversion, and part discussion of Jewish life. This book makes no assumptions about the reader's level of knowledge or familiarity with Judaism - which, given the book's intended purpose, is a good thing, though it may mean the book is less useful to readers who have already spent time st...more
Destiny Dawn Long
Incredibly informative text that answered questions I wouldn't have even known to ask. I appreciated the depth, sensitivity and scope of Diamant's text. Not only did I learn a lot, but I also felt inspired as I read. I'm really glad that I decided to purchase this title and suspect I'll be re-reading it, and referencing it in the years to come.

One of the nicest features is that she doesn't just cover the conversion process, but includes chapters on what to expect after conversion.
Julie
May 14, 2008 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Individuals sincerely interested in converting to Judiasm
Shelves: jewish-reading
Although this book is listed for individuals interested in converting to Judiasm as well as their family, friends, etc. The book would only make sense if you have a basic understanding of Judiasm in the first place. Best to read another book about the basics and then tackle this book. I appreciate Anita's honesty on the joys, fears, saddness and joys one can expect when converting to Judiasm. It asks more questions than provides answers, but a good starting point prior to meeting with a rabbi.
Lauren
This book was a nice introduction to Judaism for potential converts. Personally, I think a converted Jew can enjoy Chanukah AND a Chanukah bush (i.e., Christmas tree) but hey, I get it. Also, is an adult circumcision really necessary? Background on the impact of anti-semitism in contributing to contemporary discouragement against conversion was particularly interesting.
Ethan J
This was a good introduction to non-Orthodox conversion--basic but helpful as an introductory read. Because of the author's almost exclusive emphasis on liberal Judaism, the halakha of conversion was almost completely ignored. While this wouldn't be a problem for many potential Jews by choice, there are implications that definitely should have been addressed (e.g., aliyah).
Caitlin Cohn
I'd give it 2.5 stars. Choosing A Jewish Life would be useful for a non-Jew with a Jewish partner. As someone with one Jewish parent who grew up with many non-religious aspects of Jewish culture (and who as someone with a non-Jewish partner), I found this book frustrating. I also disagreed with certain aspects of the book, which were too all or nothing for me.
Cassie Moffitt
If you're thinking about converting to Judaism, read this book first--it helps answer a lot of questions, and does a really good job of explaining the process. It also gives the history of conversion to Judaism over time, and addresses feelings that you may come across during and even after the conversion process.
Carla Karp
This book was wonderful. It answered so many serious questions and addressed my fears about conversion and also added to my excitement about the future. I know I'll refer back to this book throughout the process. It definitely makes me feel like I'm not alone!
sarah
I wish I could give 1/2 stars because I would have given it a solid 3.5. It was very well written and constructed, I just wanted a little more content and detail. However it makes a good overview and reference to find more information on specific topics.
Linda
Has become kind of a necessity to learn more about the Jewish faith. Very interesting. the author also wrote the novel "The Red Tent" (5 stars) and has several more about the Jewish life and traditions. I suspect I will be reading more.
Kat
This book is not for those considering orthodox. I enjoyed this one better than Living the Jewish Life. This book was much more personal and she walks you through the conversion process. She also gives great resources for those converting
Karen
A compassionate and progressive guide to converting to Judaism, covering historical aspects, explanation of terms, and what to expect. A very readable and engaging book, with footnotes, references, and titles for additional reading.
Michelle Fabricant
As a person exploring conversion, it paved the way for more debate on the topic. Husband who is a non practicing Jew, has no objections one way or the other, but interestingly, always feels the need to be geographically close to a temple.
Colin Mcconnell
It wasn't the book for me, as I am not marrying into a Jewish family and am not Jewish myself; we are both converting. Still it had some good passages, mostly the stuff written by other people who had converted.
Dave Rullo
OK, so this wasn't a bad read. Not a ton of information but it still raised some things I hadn't thought of yet in my journey. I could have done without the poetry. Overall, I'm glad I read the book.
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Anita Diamant is a prizewinning journalist whose work has appeared regularly in the Boston Globe Magazine and Parenting magazine. She is the author of six books about contemporary Jewish practice, one collection of autobiographical essays (Pitching My Tent) and three prior novels. The Red Tent, her first novel, was a national bestseller and the Booksense Book of the Year. Good Harbor and The Last...more
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